Big data: selling it to the little guy

Big data is the ability to capture and mine data to advance knowledge, predict behaviour and to engage public health and spending issues. And there’s a whole heap of other uses for big data that haven’t been discovered yet. What is big data?

If data has value – if it’s worth something to business – how does that sit with ‘the little guy’? If consumers can’t be persuaded that their data is safe, respected and delivers some kind of value back to them, the chances are they won’t share.

There’s little argument that gathering, analysing and acting on data has business value.

A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) into the economic impact of big data on the UK economy, Data Equity: Unlocking the value of big data suggests that that better analysis of the growing amounts of information could generate economic value of up to £111.5m ($173m) per day by 2017. Public sector savings over five years could reach £2bn by reducing fraud and £4bn ($6.2bn) through better management, and £6bn ($9.3bn) could be saved by a more effective use of performance data in the healthcare system.

Then there is data brokerage: companies that offer data analytical services. US firm Acxiom is one of the largest. It clocked $1.1 billion in sales last year offering ‘analytical services’ on 144 million households.

The debate on privacy has moved on. If data is a commodity that can be shared and traded, a number of questions arise. Who owns what data? How can it be legally used? And can individuals sell or license their data – and extract some value for themselves? Can we delete data? Can we take it with us to another supplier?

Who will make the rules? Can privacy laws be flexible enough to offer real protection against a future we can’t predict? Can the rules be transparent enough for people to really understand them? And, importantly, how can they be enforced?

To unleash the power of big data, access to personal data must be unlocked. It is a new paradigm that needs new rules.

Last updated:
27 February 2019